So I was going to write about the opening session highlights at #alsc22. And I will. Though I want to start with how good it is to be at an in-person conference again. To be in a room with people who care passionately about the things that you care about. To sit around a table sharing a meal with conversations about mock Caldecotts and Newberys, about favorite books of the year, about booktalks and reader’s advisory. It was a pleasure just to be in the room.
And then Christina Soontornvat spoke, sharing her latest book and first graphic novel, The Tryout,(Scholastic/Graphix, 2022, illustrated by Joanna Caco) , a memoir of her own cheerleader tryout in 7th grade. Soontornvat shared the story of choosing this format, of the popularity of graphic novels with young people, including her own children. She noted that graphic novels can do things that a prose novel can’t, including expressing a range and depth of emotions in both images and text. Even more powerful was her advocacy for children and their rights. She recalled her own hesitancy to delve into her past in writing this book, to write about the racism she faced growing up in a small town as the only Asian American. But the climate of the past few years with the rise anti-Asian rhetoric made it clear that such sentiments have not gone away. So incidents (not microagressions, as they are not micro to a kid) are included in the book. She noted, “Kids have boundless capacity for empathy — the ability to step into someone’s heart . . . When they do so, they can’t hate that person anymore.”
Once again, I was reminded of how good it was to be in this room tonight (it’s something I won’t take for granted anymore). I am grateful for this opportunity — to be able to be present, to be inspired, to feel more prepared to advocate and defend the freedom to choose what to read.
Guest contributor Robin Gibson (she/her/hers) is the Youth Services Manager at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville, Ohio. She is looking forward to reconnecting and making new connections with colleagues and gathering new ideas to share with her team. She loves to travel and is excited to be able to do so again!
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.